Battery Storage and Resilience in New York City

With the not too distant memory of Hurricane Sandy as a backdrop, many new projects and codes have emerged to promote resilience in the face of another (perhaps inevitable) flood in greater New York City. The impacts were staggering.

43 deaths... 6,500 patients evacuated from hospitals and nursing homes... Nearly 90,000 buildings in the inundation zone... 1.1 million New York City children unable to attend school for a week... close to 2 million people without power... 11 million travelers affected daily... $19 billion in damage...

- Excerpt from Plan NYC - A Stronger, More Resilient New York

Plan NYC includes a host of measures to reduce the risk of the next storm. Walls, berms, and other manner of physical construction are being erected to help mitigate the next superstorm. The plan does include back up generation and limited large scale energy storage. However, building owners and developers can do more for their tenants.

Some of the most devastating stories were those of senior and infirm individuals trapped in their high rise apartments for days without space conditioning, refrigeration, or even the ability to leave due to inoperable elevators. Many of these buildings had heating and cooling systems that would have been inoperable even if they had power, due to the fact that they were underwater. So people were trapped, without heat, and in some cases ironically without water. Proper design and backup power would have eliminated these horror stories.

Battery storage offers a unique opportunity in resilience. Batteries can be packaged in ways that integrate them into the wall system. A battery storage system coupled with solar generation could keep critical needs in place for a time before evacuation could be accomplished. In the case of seniors, this could mean keeping emergency lights on and elevators running for long enough to allow time for storms to recede and evacuation to occur.

Why not just use generators? During the storm, reports of crews draining vehicles for fuel to keep generators running were common. The World Trade Center even had fuel cells installed that could have handled 10% of the building's energy demands. All the fuel cells were destroyed in the storm. Gas fired generators could be interrupted easily by failure of gas infrastructure due to storm surges.

Often during the aftermath of storms, the sun comes out, casting light on the storm’s damage. Solar powered battery backup systems could provide critical resilience to residents during times of power outages due to storms or other natural disasters. This elegant combination of systems could mean the difference between life and death, millions of dollars of property damage, and a future independence from oil and natural gas.

Many reasons for installing battery storage in buildings are cost effective. A myriad of opportunities to save money on real time energy costs exist with battery storage. Applications like peak shaving, load curtailment, frequency regulation, and load shifting are just a few of the more well known cost cutting strategies using battery storage. Resilience, however, tops the list of reasons to install storage. Keeping people and property safe during storms may have quantifiable benefits, but the knowledge that the lights will be on in times of crisis is priceless.